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Album of the Week: 'Playing Favorites' by Sheer Mag

Sheer Mag released Playing Favorites on March 1, 2024.
Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag released Playing Favorites on March 1, 2024.

'Playing Favorites' by Sheer Mag is KAXE's Album of the Week for March 18-24, 2024.

"We're playing favorites tonight" sings Sheer Mag's Tina Halladay on the title track of their new album, Playing Favorites.

If you are a fan of rock music from the 70s and 80s, the band's high energy guitar driven rock 'n' roll might remind you of your favorites from that era.

The Philadelphia band have never set out to re-invent the wheel, but with a combination of smart songwriting and the force of nature that is Tina Halladay's voice, the group have created a sound that is contemporary and uniquely theirs.

On Playing Favorites, their third album and first on Third Man Records, the band expand their sound with influences from disco, country, and even Japanese city pop.

A disco bassline keeps "All Lined Up" rolling forward as Halladay sings about a night out shooting pool. It's a great example of a song where the vibe exactly matches the activity described in the lyrics.

"Moonstruck" is a country-funk love song that moves the group further away from the sound of previous albums. Bass, drums, and lead guitar all fall away as Halladay begins the second verse singing, "You linger on my mind like fog on the river." When the full groove kicks back in, Sheer Mag are at their peak, equal parts loose and locked in.

Another standout is the largely instrumental rock suite "Mechanical Garden." After a minute of hard rock riffs and guitar solos, sweeping orchestral strings introduce the "city pop" main section of the song. City pop is a loose term for many different styles of 80s Japanese pop music that share a light and breezy funkiness.

The song takes another turn when Mdou Moctar shows up for a blistering guitar solo, adding Tuareg blues into the mix.

Playing Favorites shows that Sheer Mag are able to incorporate new sounds into their music, while still keeping their trademark nods to the past.

Must Listens:
"Playing Favorites"
"All Lined Up"
"Don't Come Lookin'"
"I Gotta Go"
"Mechanical Garden"

Tune in to KAXE Monday-Friday (10am, 3pm, 8pm) to hear from our featured Album of the Week.

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Malachy started his radio career at a college radio station, where he played weird music in the middle of the night to possibly no one. On a good night maybe his parents were listening. Nonetheless, he was hooked on public radio and is still doing it today. He joined Northern Community Radio in 2022, where he gets to share his passion for local music as Producer of Centerstage Minnesota, an all Minnesota music show airing Fridays at 2pm.